The Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) must shift the focus of beef indexes in favour of producers of high value weanlings, the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) general secretary Eddie Punch has said.

Punch accused the ICBF of using a dairy-orientated approach to beef breeding indexes in its major update of beef indexes at the end of 2023, using metrics which are of little impact on the profitability of part-time suckler-weanling systems.

“I think we actually have to go back to the start of the problem here, which is that the ICBF is trying to do too much,” he told the ICSA AGM last week.

“There are too many metrics being put into the mix, so instead of the suckler farmer trying to breed export weanlings, which is what sucklers are about, they are trying to solve climate change; they’re trying to solve factory specs, they’re trying to solve a whole array of things.

“To give you an example, if you’re a full-time dairy farmer, it might be absolutely vital to you that all cows calve within a six-week period. If you are a suckler farmer who has an off-farm job, it is irrelevant.”


The AGM also heard suckler scheme criticisms from new president Seán McNamara, who singled out the Bord Bia quality assurance requirement for entering Suckler Carbon Efficiency Programme (SCEP) and the “windfall for vets” in 2023’s National Beef Welfare Scheme.

He said that he will push for drystock schemes with “no tricky terms and conditions” to help achieve his stated goal of securing a viable income for beef and sheep farmers.